In the era of the fauxpology, it’s refreshing when someone genuinely regrets a wrongdoing. J. Cole offered a thoughtful and sincere apology after getting backlash for a lyric on Drake’s song, “Jodeci Freestyle,” where he spits the following disparaging line about autism:
“Go check the numbers dummy, that’s just me gettin’ started /I’m artistic, you n—as is autistic, retarded.”
The hurtful and insensitive lyric prompted Holly Robinson-Peete, who has a 15 year-old autistic son, to say in an interview with “Access Hollywood“:
This was first brought to my attention by my son, who is 15, with autism, loves J.Cole, loves Drake. He brought it (up) to me, because he looks at all the lyrics. He said, ‘Mom what does this mean?’ And I was so devastated when I read it, I had to read it like five times and try to find some other context where this could make sense, ’cause everything I know about J. Cole is that he’s a very intelligent man, he went to college, he graduated top of his class. He’s a very smart rapper and I understand the artistic expression and everything, but this right here is so irresponsible. It hurt my feelings so much. I just don’t [think] these artists know how powerful [they are]… because my son is struggling to fit in, and I mean struggling, so when I see an artist, with this kind of following, who is writing not just autistic, but trying to make it the new r-word, [it] is not going to happen on our watch… I hope he apologizes and I hope he takes it out [of the song].”
Right on, Holly!
To his credit, J. Cole seemed very honest and remorseful in his response, posted as a letter to Autism Speaks:
Recently there’s been a trend that includes rappers saying something offensive, only to be attacked for it in the media and pressured to apologize. I have to be completely honest and say there’s a part of me that resents that. I view rap similar to how I view comedy. It’s going to ruffle feathers at times. It’s going to go “too far”. I do not believe that an apology is needed every time someone is offended, especially when that apology is really only for the sake of saving an endorsement or cleaning up bad press. With that said, this is not the case today. This letter is sincere. This apology IS necessary. In a recent verse on the song “Jodeci Freestyle”, I said something highly offensive to people with Autism. Last week, when I first saw a comment from someone outraged about the lyric, I realized right away that what I said was wrong.
I was instantly embarrassed that I would be ignorant enough say something so hurtful. What makes the crime worse is that I should have known better. To the entire Autism community who expressed outrage, I’m moved and inspired by your passion, and I’m amazed at how strong you are as a unit. I have now read stories online from parents about their struggles and triumphs with raising an Autistic child and I admire how incredibly strong you have to be to do so. It’s touching. It also makes what I said even more embarrassing for me. I feel real shame. You have every right to be angry. To anyone suffering from Autism, either mildly or severely, I am sorry.
I’m bound to make mistakes in my life, but in my heart I just want to spread Love. I want to educate myself more on Autism, and I’ll gladly own my mistake and serve as an example to today’s generation that there’s nothing cool about mean-spirited comments about someone with Autism. People with this disorder and their loved ones have to go through so much already, the last thing they need is to hear something as ignorant as what I said. I understand. To the parents who are fighting through the frustrations that must come with raising a child with severe autism, finding strength and patience that they never knew they had; to the college student with Asperger’s Syndrome; to all those overcoming Autism. You deserve medals, not disrespect. I hope you accept my sincere apology.
Drake offered an apology as well, saying:
J.Cole wrote a beautiful and moving apology to individuals and families affected by autism who were understandably hurt by a verse in “Jodeci Freestyle”. I share responsibility and offer my sincerest apologies for the pain this has caused. Individuals with autism have brilliant and creative minds, and their gifts should not be disparaged or discounted. This was a learning lesson for both of us, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to try to right this wrong. J. Cole and I believe that it is the right, responsible, and respectful decision to remove the lyric from the song.
J. Cole’s autism lyric was irresponsible and offensive, and should’ve never been written and recorded. Still, I have to respect J. Cole’s apology in a day and age where artists have their publicists throw a statement together and they never truly grasp the weight of their offense. Kudos to him!